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Wanting to make a documentary about the savage, cannibal tribes there, Alan
(Gabriel Yorke) & his team - Faye (Francesca Ciardi),
Jack (Perry Pirkanen] & Mark (Luca Barbareschi) - somehow disappear in the
Amazon jungle, & doctor Monroe (Robert Kerman) is sent after them in an
attempt to find them ... but he can only find signs of their death, until
eventually he finds an horrible totem, made out of their bones & out of
their camera equipment ... but however difficult it might be, Monroe can
establish (peaceful) contact with the two tribes Alan's team has vistited,
notice they are not quite as savage as he has thought them to be, &
eventually he can even persuade them to give him the cans of film that belonged
to Alan's team.
Back in New York, a tv-station gets hold of the film, &
think it has the scoop of the year, wanting to make a documentary about these
violent primitives out of it, with professor Monroe hosting the show.
Monroe agrees, but he insists on previewing the material beforehands, trying to
find out what made these reasonably friendly natives kill Alan & company in
such a ghastly manner ... & it's a good thing he did insist on that, too
Alan & crew were notorious for getting the goriest details out of any
story, & if the story itself wasn't gory enough, they would stage a few
scenes ... & in the Amazon jungle, they would be no different, occasionally
shooting natives or burning their huts to spice things up a bit, & in one
scene Alan makes love to Faye in front of the whole native village just to show
them who's the boss. LAter they even rape a woman, then stake her, just for
documentary purposes ... but that earns them the wrath of a whole native tribe,
who soon comes after the team, outnumbering them even with their guns, &
one after the other they are brutally picked up, mutilated & killed (in
that order), but still, they acannot resist putting the footage on camera ...
by the material & especially the depravity of Alan's team, the tv-network's
boss orders to have the material burned ... but a macabre post script tells us
the projectionist sold it anyway, for a quarter of a million dollars ...
in its heyday, the cannibal movie genre was widely regarded as one of the mnost
despicable genres there is - & with some justification I might add -, for
its straightforward presentation of everything ghastly, its dismissive
treatment of primitive cultures, & its (hidden) celebration of the
white man as master race.
Cannibal Holocaust however is the exception
to the rule (even if in its time it wasn't regarded as one): Its a clever media
satire about the civilized white man coming to the jungle to exploit the
primitives in any way imaginable, until the primitive is pushed
far enough to retaliate - which of course poses the question who really is the
primitive - & at the end of the film, the audience's sympathies are clearly
with the natives ...
All of this is told in sort-of flashback, during the
eyes of someone who wants to find out what really did happen to a documentary
filmteam, & who only has the film material to go on ... a narrative ploy
that was later repeated in Blair
Witch Project, actually, but with all the media satire (& the gore)